First, it was “defund the police”, now Biden signs executive order that restricts actions by federal law enforcement

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WASHINGTON, DC — President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday that establishes new policing standards for federal law enforcement agencies.

However, the order does not affect state and local police departments, but encourages them to follow the new federal standards that focus on several restrictions for law enforcement officers.

The executive order instructs all federal law enforcement agencies to adopt policies banning chokeholds and carotid restraints and to limit the use of no-knock warrants to certain circumstances.

The executive order also provides the public with more access to data and information on law enforcement officers and their agencies.

The White House released a “fact sheet” press release yesterday and noted:

“Today, President Biden will sign a historic executive order (EO) to advance effective, accountable policing and criminal justice practices that will build public trust and strengthen public safety. 

“Police cannot fulfill their role to keep communities safe without public trust and confidence in law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

“Yet, there are places in America today where the bonds of trust are frayed or broken. To heal as a nation, we must acknowledge that fatal encounters with law enforcement have disproportionately involved Black and Brown people.”

Deputy under investigation for alleged "choke hold" that he used while trying to stop a criminal who was attacking him

The press release then outlined how Biden’s executive order will enhance public trust by promoting accountability, transparency and the principles of equality and dignity in policing and the larger criminal justice system.

For example, the press release noted:

“The EO orders all Federal LEAs to adopt policies that ban chokeholds and carotid restraints unless deadly force is authorized and restricts the use of no knock entries to a limited set of circumstances, such as when an announced entry would pose an imminent threat of physical violence.”

In addition, all federal law enforcement agencies must adopt body camera policies and provide the public with access to footage of incidents involving serious injuries and deaths of those under police custody:

“The EO orders all Federal LEAs to adopt and publicly post body-worn camera policies that mandate activation of cameras during activities like arrests and searches and provide for the expedited public release of footage following incidents involving serious bodily injury or deaths in custody.”

The order also directs the Attorney General to establish a “National Law Enforcement Accountability Database” to track police misconduct in order to promote accountability.

The White House noted that all federal law enforcement agencies must participate in the database system and that some data will be made accessible to the public:

“The database will include records of officer misconduct (including convictions, terminations, de-certifications, civil judgments, resignations and retirements while under investigation for serious misconduct, and sustained complaints or records of disciplinary actions for serious misconduct), as well as commendations and awards.

“The database will have due process protections for officers. All federal agencies must use the database in screening personnel, and it will be accessible to state and local LEAs, who are encouraged to enter their records as well. 

“The Attorney General will make aggregate data, by law enforcement agency, public, and will assess what whether and in what form records from the database may be accessible to the public.”

The White House said the executive order also expands the Obama-Biden administration’s previous restrictions on the transfer of surplus military equipment to local and state police:

“The EO imposes sensible restrictions on the transfer or purchase with federal funds of military equipment that belongs on a battlefield, not on our streets.

“The list of prohibited equipment is broader than under the Obama-Biden Administration, and the EO’s mandate is broader than the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (GFJPA) in that it pertains to all relevant programs, not only the Defense Department’s 1033 program.

“The EO continues to ensure that state and local LEAs can access and use appropriate equipment for disaster-related emergencies; active shooter scenarios; hostage or search and rescue operations; and anti-terrorism efforts.”

The executive order also requires an updated approach to recruiting, hiring, promoting and retaining law enforcement personnel. In addition, evaluations and promotions would be connected to how well an officer adheres to policies:

“The EO requires Federal LEAs to develop best practices to attract, support, and retain an inclusive, diverse, expert, and accountable law enforcement workforce, including by implementing screening tools to ensure that agencies do not hire or retain, or partner with on task forces, individuals who promote unlawful violence, white supremacy, or other bias on the basis of protected characteristics.

“The working group also will identify ways to expand mentorship and leadership opportunities, and ensure that performance evaluations and promotions are tied to an officer’s adherence to these policies.”

The executive order will allow a study on biometric technology and assess how it is used by law enforcement:

“The EO directs the National Academy of Sciences to conduct and publish a study of facial recognition technology, other biometric technologies, and predictive algorithms that assesses any privacy, civil rights, civil liberties, accuracy, or disparate impact concerns with their use.

“This study will then be used to make any necessary changes to Federal law enforcement practices.”

In addition, “a working group” will submit a report on data collection and transparency to Biden:

“A working group will write a report to the President on how to collect and publish data on police practices (including calls for service, searches, stops, frisks, seizures, arrests, complaints, law enforcement demographics, and civil asset forfeiture), and on the practices and policies governing the acquisition and use of advanced surveillance and forensic technologies.”

During the bill signing ceremony, which occurred two years after the death of George Floyd, Biden commented:

“It’s a measure of what we can do together to heal the very soul of this nation to address profound fear and trauma exhaustion, particularly [what] black Americans have experienced for generations, and to channel a private pain and public outrage into a rare mark of progress for years to come.”

Responding to criticism that the president took too long in signing the executive order on federal law enforcement reform, Biden defended his timing:

“Why haven’t I done this executive order earlier? If I’d done it, I was worried it would undercut the effort to get the law passed.”

Vice President Kamala Harris noted the order was “long overdue”:

“We also know this executive order is no substitute for legislation, nor does it accomplish everything we know must be done, but it is a necessary and long overdue, critical step forward.”

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